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Rajesh Krisnan, Founder of Perfect Home Solutions

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Rajesh Krisnan is 41, hailing from a middle class family in India. He lives with his wife and two children in Bangalore. Rajesh is keen in innovating and passionate about change. He started out his career as a scientist and engineer in the biomedical field, initially developing glucose sensors for people with diabetes.

Rajesh later moved on to commercial roles in the same area and have spent almost half my career in marketing new technologies to the consumer and healthcare markets. His career has exposed him to all aspects of a product life cycle in the medical technology space. He has primarily worked in start-ups and understand what it takes to build a great company. His education started with B.Tech in chemical engineering from IT-BHU (1994) after which Rajesh did his Master of Science at University of New Mexico and later graduated with an MBA from University of California-Berkeley (2005).

Currently, Rajesh is running his own venture, PerfectHome Solutions, dedicated to creating innovative solutions that will improve quality of life indoors. When he is not working, he spends a lot of time with his family and watching his children grow.

The Asian Entrepreneur has the privelege of speaking to Rajesh today about his work.

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What exactly is HighrisWhat exactly is Perfect Home Solutions?

Perfect Home Solutions is a venture dedicated towards delivering innovative solutions for quality-of-life related gaps indoors. We believe that solutions for problems that improve health and lifestyle simultaneously will ultimately contribute to better quality of life. We focus on making our products and solutions simple and easy to use. We currently make and sell Cactus moisture absorber, a product for home use through modern retail chains. This category of products is designed to provide a preventive solution for moisture related damages like the formation of fungus and mould in homes; pervasive damp and musty smells in bathrooms, kitchens and lofts.

How did you come up with the idea of Perfect Home Solutions?

After moving to our apartment in Bangalore, my wife had to painfully clean up a nasty mould infestation and even get rid of articles that were mould-ridden. She was getting tired of cleaning indoors frequently to get rid of the nuisance.

So, in 2011, we decided to start the company. We figured that everyone must be going through this at least once, if not more. It is just an unspoken problem that is ignored or taken care of by frequent cleaning whose effectiveness is questionable and short-lived. Since both of us have a healthcare background, we sometimes wonder if allergies in our son could have been triggered by floating moisture and mould indoors at that time.

We initially solved the issue by placing many sachets of silica gel throughout the house. That helped a lot and she didn’t have to clean so often and our stored articles were not being damaged any more. Plus, the smells were not there anymore. Start ups have been my entire career and I like working for small companies. While starting a venture from ground up has been a dream, it is also exciting and there was an opportunity that was presented to us.

How has it been like managing the business since?

The company was started in June 2011. It has been exciting and challenging. It is always exciting to do something from scratch and see it get a shape and grow. The challenges are multi-fold. It certainly seems like the wrong age to become an entrepreneur. Without an income, it takes a toll on the entire family. It is something I and my family reconcile every day. I am lucky to have their support. Doing business in India where product innovation is a rarity presents a challenge.

I sell my products through the fmcg channels of modern retail trade and it is something that keeps me up all night in figuring out how to make this category into mainstream one.

While people have a lot more exposure to and acceptance of new products and solutions, this will certainly not be a cake walk. I manage all aspects of the business from manufacturing to selling and marketing, customer care and there is not a single day where I have not learned something new and often I learn about myself to top it all. The most difficult thing is running the company on pretty much zero cash and a payment cycle that slows you down. With growing business, hopefully this will change. Emotionally, the journey has been stressful and fun at the same time.

Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup? How did you overcome it?

The single most difficult thing is funding. Most often startups fold because they run out of cash. It is absolutely true and you have to be highly disciplined. Every day is pretty much about survival. Organized investors are few in number for start up ventures and investments are fewer. So, we rotate our cash to grow the business and it severely hampers the speed. In my opinion, more than money, the right investing partner will also bring in connections that will catalyze the growth of the firm. While there are no solutions until funding comes through, I have to be creative on how to stretch every dollar. Beg, borrow, do what it takes.

How was the initial reaction from the consumers?

The reaction has been very positive. When the solution is explained, there is a light bulb that goes on in the mind of the customers. The problem of moisture and the damages related to it are things that most home makers have been living with and taking care of in many different ways including ignoring it. Most often the reaction upon hearing about the product is a “wow” and the satisfaction that someone is solving a problem. In fact, before deciding to take a deep plunge into the venture, I first sold silica gel to residential apartments as a validation to gauge the need for the product and saw that there was a need. The speed of growth of the category is going to be dependent on being able to educate and create an awareness of the product and category.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry? What is your strategy against your competition?

Fmcg business is fraught with competition. Marketers scramble to latch on to small parts of customer perceptions to position their brands. However, given this is a new category, competition is limited. PHS is the only indigenous manufacturer of this category for the consumer market. However, there are a couple of players who import their products. PHS will continue to differentiate by being innovative and innovating fast. Both are crucial to set us apart in this market.

What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

Air care is a category that is seeing a lot of growth in the FMCG space and we want to capitalize that on that growth curve. Dabur and Godrej report 25%+ growth in air care which includes air fresheners, fragrance sprays and diffusers etc. In the fmcg value chain, the retailers are at the top of the pyramid and enjoy a lot of market power and so does the consumer. Consumer purchasing behavior is continuously evolving with evolving lifestyle, urban developments and so on. This industry while being very attractive is seeing and going to see a lot of change and only those who hold a steadfast focus on the consumer will survive.

How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?

Being a new entrant is both exciting and risky and it is imperative that we stay relevant. We have no cashcows to rely on while we jettison the not-so-relevant. Our product SKUs are carefully picked and designed to suit the use-scenarios of the end user. We have a pipeline of ideas that will further strengthen our offerings and stay relevant. Our current products came into existence after discovering a gap in urban lifestyle that was dying for a solution. So, we believe and hope that we are relevant.

What are your future plans for Perfect Home Solutions?

Although we started the company with a single product, the idea behind the venture is to become an entity that delivers innovative and relevant solutions (products or services or a combination) that can fill gaps that affect quality of life. We are interested primarily in theintersection of health and lifestyle where we believe there are number of gaps which require solution be it quality of air or water so on. There is room in both consumer and institutional markets. We have product ideas in dust control and air quality as a whole. We believe that the Indian market will continue to be price sensitive as always. So our ability to make things locally will be an advantage both from a cost perspective and being able to deliver what they need.

If you could start all over again, would you change anything about your approach? If so, what?

Hindsight is always 20/20. But I would spend less and try to be more cost effective when it comes to commercialization related expenditure.

What do you think about startups in Asia?

I am not an expert in Asian market. From an Indian perspective, the so-called ecosystem is in its infancy. There is a lot that is yet to be accomplished. It is a great time for startups in the hitech spaces like mobile, cloud etc. However, the country as a whole can benefit from the ecosystem including manufacturing sector. It is imperative that India sees a balanced growth so that it sees a sustainable growth and has a chance to close the wealth gap. I believe startups can play a major role in this.

What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?

Integrity is high on the list. Appreciation for the human value chain. Doing what you like or at least something where you can partially park your heart.

What is your definition of success?

Being able to control the means and the end.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I have always been in small set ups. I like it and wanted to continue that. Plus, it gives a good chance to try and hit it big. Got to try!

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

It takes hard work, time and luck. Don’t hesitate for anything. Ask for help and take help. Shed shame. Develop a thick skin.

Connect:
Website: www.perfecthomesolutions.in
b: www.facebook.com/Cactus.Mooisture.Absorbers

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Daphne Ng, CEO of JEDTrade

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Daphne Ng is the CEO of JEDTrade, a blockchain technology company focused on trade, supply chain, and financial inclusion projects in ASEAN. She is also the Scretary-General at ACCESS and Exco. of Singapore Fintech Association

What makes you do what you do?
I was introduced to blockchain technology in 2016 after I left my corporate banking career after 10 years. It was my mentor who first got me interested in this technology, which I then went on to delve further into, on its potential applications in the lending and trade finance space – domains where I came from.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Being in the space for 2 years and actively involved in the ecosystem, I was able to bring on the projects, network and a good degree of thought leadership in this vertical. Early on in the startup journey, our team faced many challenges. And to me, the key to rising above failures are two essential factors – resilience and support. While resilience is innate, I received a lot of help be it in terms of connections or advice. ‘Nobody succeeds without help’ rings very true for me.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
From the start, I focused on my domain expertise in trade finance and the application construct of how blockchain and DLT can be applied to these use cases. Also, my strategy from the start was to build a technology company made up of 80% tech and engineers, which is also our key competitive advantage today. At the end of the day, deliverables are about strategy and execution, which includes building and leading an ‘A’ team.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have many mentors, which includes our company advisors (all of whom are well-known in this industry) and mostly informal mentors I meet via my connections, and on various occasions and circumstances. Creating opportunities also means putting myself in the right place, at the right time. And in my case, these were mostly organic and genuine friendships formed from the initial connection.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
To me, a match in values is very important. It also takes humility to ask for help and be willing to listen to advice, which is important in order for mentorships to be successful – be it formal or informal.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I love this question! I am passionate about building strong teams and helping my people grow. I abide by the 3Rs when identifying talents: resourcefulness, resilience and right values. And then I invest in the ‘potential’ and this means giving them room to lead, make decisions and take risks.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
My support of diverse talents, skillsets and characters can be seen in the make-up of our core team – all helming specific roles and each bringing their own value to the table. We need the sum of all parts to build a great company.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Great leaders emerge in times of failures and challenges, never abandoning the team, and always putting the team’s interests before her own. And I consciously live by these mottos every day.

Advice for others?
My advice to other entrepreneurs: be resolute and dare to be different. If you are going to follow others, then you will end up on the same path as them. No right or wrong; but I would rather chart my own path. This June, we are officially launching our blockchain project, Jupiter Chain (www.jupiterchain.tech), which have garnered much interest in the industry, even before we made it public. We believe this project is the epitome of marrying innovation with practical implementation, and we want to be the first to truly operationalize blockchain for our ecosystem projects in this region.


If you’d like to get in touch with Daphne Ng, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daphne-ng-%E9%BB%84%E7%91%9E%E7%8E%B2/

To learn more about JEDTrade, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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